Reader profile: Ben
I’ve known Ben for a long time now. He worked round the corner from me during my journalism days, and we were both customers of visiting artisans like Elia Caliendo and Simone Abbarchi. We even did a shoot together for Elia years ago.
Ben and I haven’t seen each other regularly since I started full-time in menswear, and no longer work around Blackfriars. But we still bump into each other, and I think Ben is a great example of someone who wears his clothes lightly - he wears quality tailoring which clearly elevates his appearance, and looks good without having anything a colleague would pick out or point a finger at.
It’s also nice to bring in to this Reader Profile series, someone who lived and worked in Hong Kong for a long time, with its density of classic menswear over the past 10 years.
Outfit 1: Formal
“This suit is Holland & Sherry Crispaire from WW Chan, via the Armoury in Hong Kong. It was made in 2012, my first serious bespoke suit - it seemed like a lot of money back then, but considering it's lasted me nearly 10 years (and still going!), it's a ringing endorsement for the concept of always having this simple, classic suit in your wardrobe.
The shirt is from Luca Avitabile, the tie from Drake’s, and the chocolate split-toes are from Saint Crispin's. Not a 'traditional' combination, but as dress standards evolve post-pandemic (and my office has no strict dress-code), I feel like these 'adjacent' options (linen rather than poplin, dark paisley rather than a solid colour, derbies rather than oxfords) allow for a more relaxed way to dress for work, but are still appropriate for most offices and situations.
What job do you do, and how does that interact with what you wear?
I work in Government Affairs and Regulation, so while I tend to dress smartly, there is no real dress code. I prefer to wear a suit and tie most days - it's part of my ritual of preparing for work, which I admit I've missed since the pandemic began.
How do you travel to work?
It's a combination of walking and the Tube, but thankfully it's not too long a commute. I wouldn't say it affects what I wear to a huge extent besides layering, especially in London winters. A suit and an overcoat can quickly become an oven when you're on a packed tube carriage and unable to take either off!
What's your favourite PS article?
I really like reading the articles on PS about 'How Things Age'; the patina of time that turns something valuable into something unique to you.
I know it sounds all a bit too 'menswear romantic', but when I look at a cotton jacket that has been faded from the sun, a watch that has its share of dings, or a pair of shoes that has been well-worn (and well kept), this to me is another layer of appreciation of craft and quality.
Another great example of this is the Stefano Bemer Instagram posts that show shoes that have been worn into the ground and then been refurbished to such a high level - not new, but in some ways even better.
Outfit 2: Semi-formal
For me, semi-formal is still mostly formal elements (sports coat from Elia Caliendo, button-down shirt from The Anthology, trousers from Cerrato), but worn in a more relaxed way.
The coat is my latest commission from Elia, and having been working with him for a few years now, I feel like the fit and finish have been honed to just the way I like it. I really like the thoughtful approach that The Anthology takes towards its fabric choices for all its garments, while the Fresco trousers from Cerrato in Naples are a real treat - a crisp classic that fits like a glove.
What's your biggest tip for other readers?
I'm sure it's been said before, but having the basic elements of a wardrobe in place before experimenting is really key.
Yes, it's not very exciting to buy suits in navy and charcoal, dark-brown oxfords and white and blue shirts - but trust me, if you start out building a wardrobe with a double-breasted seersucker jacket and acid-yellow chinos, even if you can pull them off, they are likely to be for very specific occasions.
Getting value from a wardrobe is as much how often you wear it as the price you paid - the idea of 'cost-per-wear'. Having an expensive item that is used once a quarter is a bit of a waste, but having an expensive item you use several times a week is an investment.
What’s your money-saving tip?
The one I'm sure most people will know is to buy as good quality as you can afford (as this will save money in the long-run).
But I find that buying wardrobe basics on sale is also an effective way to save money. Do a bit of research and understand when sale times are and make sure you know your size for things such as sweaters, shirts and socks. For those who are blessed with more time, outlet sales or travelling to outlets as part of a holiday can also be quite good value.
Outfit 3: Casual
This is a simple casual outfit that I love because it's made up of solid, hard-wearing basics: a denim popover from Simone Abarchi, chinos from Incotex, and suede chukkas from Anglo-Italian.
Having a 2.5 year old and another one on the way, I need outfits I can easily put together, not worry if they get hit by stains, yet have some elements of classic menswear style to them.
Comfort is also key, but a tip for those looking to have a MTM popover made - always go with fabric that has a bit of stretch or specify a looser fit. I mistakenly asked for one as fitted as my shirts, and ended up with a popover that looks great but is extremely difficult to 'pop over'!
Which brands do you identify most with?
Rather than brands, I think I value stores that have been able to give me great advice, and that I feel a more personal connection with.
A great example of this is the navy suit I'm wearing; the colour, cloth, style, even the deep green lining were all recommendations from Ethan Newton while he was working at the Armoury. Now that he has his own endeavour at Bryceland's, I specifically went to see him in Tokyo when I was last there - not just to shop, but also to pick his brain on style questions and keep that little connection alive.
While it's generally true that you can build longer-lasting relationships with a brand if you deal with the artisan directly, rather than sales staff, that doesn't always hold. Any store/brand looking to create long-term customers should be investing in great people, and whenever I've spoken to Martin at Anglo-Italian or Aiden at Trunk for example, not only do I get thoughtful advice, but these interactions, even if I don't end up buying something, build that connection with the store.
I know that not everyone has the ability to physically see some artisans/stores in person, but when you are lucky enough to, I’d say you should spend both time (and money) there!
Do you think you spend a lot of money on clothes?
Yes, I do! However, I think I've reached a point where I have the clothes I want for a wardrobe foundation, so these days it's definitely more about want than need. I spend much less than I used to on clothes per year, both because of that and having children.
What do you spend most, and least, money on?
In the past I spent most on suits, sports coats and trousers. Having been lucky to have access to some great tailors both in Hong Kong and now in London, I spent most of my money there first, but now it's shifting more towards shoes and watches (not to mention that my small wardrobe can't really hold much more!) The size of London apartments and lack of storage space have a natural way of making you evaluate your purchases more thoroughly.
Hi Simon, i do really like these articles on a Friday. They are a nice casual way of easing into the weekend. They feel somehow more recreational than some of the other articles. I would say however that to me there has not been much difference in the style presented in these pieces to date. I am sure that you could point out various points of difference of course but the overall impression is one of real similarity. I feel the lack of variation will limit the lifespan of these pieces and i already feel i may loose interest following another 1 or 2 covering a similar type of person. Yes, these may be representative of the average PS reader but i believe this sites following is probably more diverse and interesting than what we have seen so far i.e middle aged, corporate professional man working in a non creative field with traditional tastes. I would like to see a little more idiosyncrasy.
Interestingly we are doing that with the next piece, so look out for that.
At the same time though, as you say, this is the core reader and what a lot of the readership enjoys wearing. The aim of the articles is not necessarily to show a big range of styles, but to have real-world illustrations of how people wear the clothes we write about. And not to have them always shown on me!
As ever thanks for the feedback though. And look out for the next installment
I agree with James’ observations on the “uniformity” of the subjects of the reader profile series, however, I also bear in mind that Simon also writes the “How to dress like” series which focuses on people who are, in a way, the opposite – those in the industry who wear less traditional clothes or outfits. The way I see it, the point of these series is to provide a guide or inspiration to readers, by showing two opposite extremes and allowing the reader to find their personal sweet spot between the two, and I personally wouldnt want that to change.
I understand the comments made by James and Edric, but I want to emphasize how valuable and interesting these profiles are to learning about style and building a wardrobe. Just seeing “real outfits, chosen and worn by real people (not industry insiders and those associated with the menswear profession)”, impart a practical wisdom that feels very relevant to me. I think it is a great example of “true style” and it almost imbues a bit of confidence in moving through the changing classic style landscape.
I really enjoy these articles, regardless of style and personal nuance.
I hope that these features remain a permanent fixture in your writings.
Thanks Vida, good to know. I certainly plan them to be, yes
I agree with you, Vida. These articles are inspiring and more importantly relatable. I see Ben in myself which I’m sure is the point of the series in a way. There are so many aspirational articles on PS and elsewhere that are a bit out of reach.
Ben looks dapper in all those photos, but it’s easy to point a finger at why: muted paisley tie, trouser pleats, pocket square, no beltloops, quality shoes…
I really related to that .
I’m assuming given Ben’s job he’s a man of limited means which are stretched to fulfill his need .(much like most PS readers no doubt)
That second outfit …. How does he pull off those colours !
It’s an incredible mix of grey , brown and pink .
Would love to see more of Ben’s wardrobe and how he budgets for exceptional tailoring .
Cheers Robin! Stretching out the budget is definitely a challenge, but buying clothes that can be used in multiple outfits is always a good idea (plainer colours but with texture), as it allows different assessories to spruce up the outfit with e.g. coloured pocket squares etc
i find his style very natural and unaffected, despite the fact that hes hanging out at all the #menswear shops, and despite the fact hes wearing jewellery and a tie. hes very elevated ‘ordinary’. doesnt stand out at all imo…but is clearly well dressed and comfortable in his clothes.
also, another fan of pop-over shirts here *fist pump*
Thanks Zo! Love the pop-over too!
Looking great. Stylish and elegant. You were generous enough to exchange a few emails with me a around 4 years ago after I’d received my first few jackets from Elia. You were very thoughtful and helpful with your bespoke experiences, thank you. Coincidentally, I’ve just received the exact same shirt from buzz which I wore yesterday and I have a similar jacket from Elia in pecora nera!
Hi Mac, I hope you’ve been well, and thanks for the comments! I hope your jackets from Elia are treating you well (I am sure they are) and your experience with The Anthology has been as good as mine!
Looking good Ben. Hope you are well.
Cheers Oli I hope you’ve been well too mate. All good on my end (pandemic aside) – family is growing!
Nicely done. Love these series. Btw – what’s the watch?
Cheers Sam. I’ll get Ben to reply on that. I’ll ask him now
A Drive de Cartier Moonphase that was designed at the height of popularity of oversized watches.
Yes, Felix is correct – I think it looks oversized on my relatively small wrist! But then again most modern watches are a tad on the larger size.
Also, what’s the belt in the casual outfit?
Ben’s a very dapper chap!
Hi Tommy, it’s actually a very old braided leather belt from Massimo Dutti! Cheers, for the comments.
My guy ben looking fresh
I particularly like the casual outfit. The combination of the denim fabric and the popover design looks well balanced. I’ve never been convinced by the popover design with a shirt fabric but having recently bought one with a flannel fabric and a generous fit, I’m fairly sold on the idea. I’ve bought several shirts from Simone this year and they’ve given me a lot of joy. The finish is neat but not overly fussy and he gives good advice on fit at the outset. Also his beige mother of Pearl buttons are a lovely colour and robust unlike the flimsy thin buttons on lots of rtw shirts (even expensive ones).
Ben – I notice you opt for solid colour fabric choices for sport jackets which I’ve also generally done too. To what extent have you experimented with check fabrics for a sport jacket (glen plaid etc)?
Hi Hywel Jones, thanks for the comments! Yes, popovers are tricky to execute, especially with shirt fabric. My journey with Simone has been a long one, but is now in a great place I think (and yes, the smoked MOP buttons are great!)
Re: sports jackets, most of mine are in solid colours (which I find ‘easier’ to wear), but I try to make them more textual e.g. linen, flannel, etc. I have two check jackets, but both are shades of grey with small sized checks so they’re not very loud. I have often thought about another, and if I do, I would definitely find a fabric with a subtle check colour (makes it more wearable!).
Very nice! Would it be possible to get more details on the beige jacket cloth?
Agreed. Details on the sports coat cloth would be great.
Hi Miguel and Nick – thanks for the comments! I can’t remember exactly what number it is, but it’s a cashmere from one of the Loro Piana books. I can ask Elia as to the number if you’d like?
That would be awesome, a coat like yours would fill an important gap in my wardrobe. Specially as it seems quite versatile in terms of weight, despite being cashmere, and can easily be dressed up or down.
Also many thanks for following up and for sharing part of your wardrobe with Permanent Style community.
Hi Ben, any chance you managed to check about the cloth? Agree it looks really nice
Great series and article for sure with Ben’s sophisticated and effortless style. Also like the Rubinacci Med pocket square, among my favorites given their versatility.
So Simon, remembering your article on pocket squares from last year, they are still mostly “out” for you or have they made a re-appearance for you?
Not a reappearance, no, but I do still wear them. It’s more like they are an option, an interesting alternative, rather than a default, if that’s makes sense
As has been noted, the combination of grey, maroon, and beige is unusual, but it seems to work here. I may be stretching it, but one of the reasons could be that the colors in the pocket square pull it all together somewhat subliminally in that by the time the square is folded in the pocket, the viewer just sees color and is not focussed on pattern (an advantage of the all-over designs that Rubinacci does so well).
At least on my screen, in the close-up the background of the square is off-white and has other neutral shades picking up the jacket, the black lettering pulls the grey, and the pink/red echoes the maroon. Not the case with dapper Ben here, but it’s a trick I’ve used casually when the shirt I should be wearing is in the laundry – pulling it together with a pocket square that compliments the shirt and jacket I would not normally wear together, and it’s not half bad (vs. half good)!
Thanks for sharing your outfits with us Ben. It’s quite interesting to see how fellow readers dress.
Simon, we haven’t seen much knitwear in these series. Of course, there are limits to the number of outfits, but given that we’re in winter in the northern hemisphere it could be interesting to include some knits.
True Noel, good point. We usually work on these a month or two ahead of posting, so it was fairly warm still when we shot this. As we go on I’m sure we’ll start to see colder weather clothing
Simon- Really enjoy this series. Ben has great understated style. Ben’s tip for the readers to ” get basic elements of a wardrobe in place before experimenting” is spot on. Sage advice indeed. Nicely done.
Thanks Robert, good to hear
The colour combo in the second outfit suit him very well.
Good morning!!!! I know i sound like a broken record but this another reader profile that i enjoyed..keep up the great work…peace
Simon, I love the look of outfit #3 for casual wear. I live in a year-round warm/hot climate and was thinking of getting a few popovers made in lightweight fabrics, like end-on-end. However, I saw it mentioned somewhere that popovers only look flattering on slimmer guys. I think I understand that you lose the full-length placket that bisects the stomach. But I’d appreciate your opinion before having some made up. If not a desirable look for a fuller guy, I’ll stick to full button in light fabrics. Thanks.
That consideration does make sense Benn, but that doesn’t mean you might not still like them. I’d suggest you try and find an opportunity to try on a RTW one in person, to see how much you care about that point, before rejecting them as an option
Simon, Happy New Year to you and all readers. I just love these pieces. I find them very useful: I am still learning my way through here and it is reassuring to read things like focusing on the basic pieces before you move on. As someone who is just starting out, reading and seeing how those far more experienced do it is a really important reminder during those days of being tempted by that mustard colored blazer (not that I am against such a color; it’s just that I need to commission a tweed – that I will use more – before I think about things more exotic).
I wish you a wonderful 2022
Thank you Dimitrios, and great to hear in what ways you find them useful
I’ve recently gotten an appointment with Luca Avitabile in a few weeks while he is in NYC. I’m still building out my wardrobe, but wanted to ask if there was anything you’d recommend speaking to him about. Or a specific styling that you’ve enjoyed from him.
Luca will deal with everything quite efficiently. I would only say in terms of something I particularly enjoy from him, that his button-down collars are the best I’ve found – it’s why we use them on all the ready-made shirts he does for us.
There is more general advice on visiting a shirtmaker around the PS site. For example a video here on a shirt fitting. There is also a small guide to what I see as the best shirts to start a wardrobe with here.
And if you really want to get into detail on shirt styles, and shirt fabrics, there are guides at those two links.
Any other questions, do always ask in the comments of any of those posts.
Love the semi-casual.